I have been reading up a storm this month and really wanted to get a book or two off the oldest bit of the TBR in advance of doing my 20 Books of Summer challenge from Tuesday, which picks books from the whole TBR unlike most years. So I grabbed this one and got a nice lot of reading time, so even though it’s a big one, it’s all done. It was also a good read, which helps!

It’s funny to think this was one of the last books I bought pre-lockdown, wandering round the charity shops on the local high street, spending a homemade charity shop voucher my friend Sian had given me with Sian – yes, going into multiple shops, and with another person! Seems like a world away now.

Mark Beaumont – “The Man Who Cycled the World”

(04 February 2020)

I love Australia. I would like to state that clearly before writing about what a tough time I had there. (p. 326)

Beaumont was a keen sportsman from an early age, but more into horse-riding and skiing, and rather amusingly not really into cycling at all, yet cycling was where he started of doing long-distance challenges, crossing Scotland then doing a Land’s End to John O’Groats while still in his teens, supported by his indomitable mum and sisters.

Then he decides, aged on 24, to do a circumnavigation of the globe, and to try to get a Guinness World Record for it, which involves him having to rid 18,000 miles, through two antipodes, and log everything in multiple ways, also raising money for five charities.

It’s an exciting journey apart from when it’s not, and he records his impressions of different countries and people (he kept a log book and audio diary). Places he thinks are going to be tricky aren’t, and the places he thought he could cruise through (notably Australia and America) are very difficult at times. The book is enlivened by lots of good-quality photographs matching the text nicely, and the journey by kind people, whether that’s his massage therapist Piotr and BBC film-maker David Peat, a man called Richard who he met for 15 minutes looking at elephant seals in California and does a 20-hour round trip in Florida to help him, or a shopkeeper who gives him a bag of shopping free.

He’s a little naive at times, getting giggly any time he’s offered a prostitute (which happens a couple of times) and mentioning some overt racism he hears while accepting it as the speaker’s position on things – but he was only 24 and it was back in 2007. He’s very nice about the people he meets and recognises individual acts of kindness, and he gives his mum a fairly substantial chapter at the end, where she shares what she went through at “base camp”, sorting all the logistics and issues. It’s a day-by-day account and fairly matter-of-fact but engaging and interesting.

I had a look at what he’s done since, and it’s pretty impressive stuff, including more record attempts – fair play to him!